Citrus Trees in the Desert

Did you know most citrus trees do very well in the desert landscape and environment here in metropolitan Phoenix? They will even produce sufficient fruit for you, as well as all of your neighbors!  However, some varieties of citrus grow better than others given the hot summers here in the Valley of the Sun.

Different types of citrus trees grow at different rates, and sweeter fruit grows slower than less sweet fruit.  This is why you’ll often see an overabundance of lemons.  Valencia oranges and Arizona Sweets are hardier than navel or blood orange trees.  Most citrus trees need to be five to six years old before they start producing a generous crop of fruit.

The care and maintenance of citrus trees isn’t complicated but is very important.  First, citrus trees really aren’t trees but are bushes that are trimmed to look like trees.  If they are left to their own devices, they grow big and bushy and will produce more and better quality fruit.  But for aesthetic reasons, citrus trees are pruned to look like trees.  Another interesting fact about citrus trees in Arizona is that because they are pruned and their trunks are exposed, they are at risk for sunburn.  Therefore, the trunks of citrus trees in Arizona are often painted white for protection against sun damage (which cuts off the flow of nutrients and water to the tree).  There’s a fact with which you can impress out-of-state visitors!

The feeding and watering of citrus trees is critical to producing a higher yield of fruit.  A high-nitrogen fertilizer three times a year plus generous watering throughout the year are requirements for citrus trees.  Citrus trees require several hundred gallons of water about twice a week in the summer months.  If you are interested in conserving water, a dwarf citrus tree or a smaller container citrus tree will be perfect for your needs.

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